This has been an interesting week for my brain when it comes to films. Three things happened that got my brain thinking once combined together. First was the very sad news of the passing of actual, genuine, legend of cinema Peter O’Toole. Second was the bizarre story of Shia LaBeouf not having a clue what plagiarism is. The third thing was watching an Adam Sandler film where, in a rare break of professional character, he quite clearly gave a shit. So this all got me thinking. What has happened over the years to make some of the more recent stars just not seem to give a crap about what they’re doing? Why was there a certain level of class and integrity with actors of Peter O’Toole’s generation that is greatly lacking today?
So, let’s recap in full just what Shia LaBeouf went and did like a fucking idiot this week. Sorry to swear but I feel that it’s needed to convey just how much of a moron he has been. A short while back Shia LaBeouf decided that, seeing as he’s not needed in the Transformers film any more… not that he ever was… he was going to strike out and prove just how much of a real actor he was. This required getting all naked for a Sigur Ros music video, because art. Allegedly sending a homemade, but very tastefully lit, sex tape to Lars Von Trier in order to win a role in Nymphomaniac. Lastly he thought he’d do that thing that makes all actors instantly more respected, he directed a short film. See, you have to direct to be respected as an actor. Either that or it means you get a Directors Guild club card that gets you into all the bottomless parties in LA. Unfortunately for Shia, he was far too overworked with all his not being in many films now to actually come up with an original idea for a film. Instead he just copied a Daniel Clowes comic.
Earlier this week Shia LaBeouf posted a shot film to his website that he had made, which had also been shown at Cannes to rave reviews by the way. This film is called Howard Cantour.com and it is about a film critic contemplating a review he is due to write about a film by a director he once adored the work of. A few years back Daniel Clowes wrote a comic called Justin M. Damiano, a film about a web critic discussing the art of film criticism. The copying of the Clowes comic is exceptionally obvious from the start, and while LaBeouf’s film does begin to deviate the set up, shots and even most of the dialogue in the first scene are taken straight from the Justin M. Damiano. After the news broke/Shia’s bullshit was called out on he decided to come clean and admit fault with the following series of tweets collected together here as follows:
“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work. In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur film-maker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation. I’m embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work. I fucked up.”
It’s good to admit to ones mistakes. Wonder where LaBeouf will copy paste his next apology from then. Oh yes, he plagiarised his apology for plagiarism, specifically this part.
“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work.”
Which is very similar to an answer provided to the question “Why did Picasso say “good artists copy but great artists steal”?” The copied apology being taken from a user called Lili, complete with an emphasis on the word “IS”.
“Merely copying isn’t particularly creative work, though it’s useful as training and practice. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work.”
After reading this and seeing a few Twitter users pointing out that he had stolen the apology too I had to wonder just what the hell was going through his mind. It’s one thing to reference a work you love with a line of dialogue or a shot made to match, it’s another thing entirely to just copy near verbatim. Even Tarantino knows the difference. It led me to thinking if Shia LaBeouf is the kind of person who gives a single solitary shit about being the artist he so craves to be. Upon doing a little research for this I discovered that not only is he apparently copying apologies from Yahoo Answers but some of Shia LaBeouf’s own self published comic books (Let’s Fucking Party and Stale N Mate) have allegedly been copying elements from Charles Burkowski’s Assault and Benoit Duteurtre’s The Little Girl and the Cigarette. Hey, at least he’s well read.
Considering LaBeouf has a history of being a self entitled little brat, regularly getting arrested and causing trouble in public, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of his school homework was copied too. Also, I don’t care about his growing up poor sob story. He’s stated his motivations for acting was because he had met another child actor and wanted to have things like that kid did. He’s motivated by greed and appears to have no concept of ownership or self responsibility.
Shia LaBeouf is 27 years old. At the age of 27 Peter O’Toole had performed on the theatrical stage for many years, earning a degree of respect for his skill, and was a few years away from playing T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. Peter O’Toole raised a decent amount of hell in his younger days, his first wife claims he mentally abused her due to his alcoholism, but he performed like a star and was well regarded amongst friends. Over the years his work was as varied as any actor could hope for, ranging from dramatic epics to playing Zaltar in Supergirl. He was never embarrassed by his sillier roles as he saw it all as part of the fun of the privileged job he worked within. Shia, BTW, opening says he feels the Transformers films suck and appears to have seen them as a necessary stepping stone to make himself seem like one of them real actors. Shame he isn’t a particularly remarkable actor.
What I’m getting at is, that whilst there’s always going to be stories of actors doing really, really stupid stuff the actors of the past at least made up, partially, for their shenanigans by being good at their jobs. Often if an actor was too much trouble and wasn’t good enough they’d be pushed to the wayside as others rose to take they’re spots. The cream rises to the top. These days though moronic schlock and idiotic tropes have become the main driving force of the film industry, and so, having someone who’s not particularly good in their lead roles isn’t a prerequisite for a a films success. It used to be that people went to see a film for not just the spectacle but for the stars. Now the spectacle is all there is and studios are able to spin massive franchises off the backs of relatively poor and unknown (read: cheap) actors content in the knowledge that even if the leads suck people will go to see all the explosions. You know, like in the Transformers films.
Peter O’Toole may not have been a star when he starred in Lawrence of Arabia but he made people stand up and pay attention to him. It led to the film being a fixture of cinemas for years, and Oscar nomination for O’Toole and a steady stream of re-releases in recent years. This is all because not only is the film stunning to look at but the cast hold your attention throughout with their skill. That is what makes a classic film and what helps and actor become a legend. No-one is going to be reminiscing about how great Transformer (the film, I should stress) was in 50 years. Hell, give it ten years and it’ll be rebooted with another easily replaceable star anyway. Shia’s star will fade unless he does something to sort himself out. By this I mean stop causing trouble, stop stealing peoples work and start trying to give a shit about what he does.
This all brings me to Adam Sandler and my question of do actors even care any more. When Sandler broke through it was with silly but fun comedies such as Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer. Neither are remarkable films, or even remarkable comedies, but they’re entertaining enough. At some point he decided to set up his own production company called Happy Madison Productions. The company logo features Sandler’s now deceased father Stanley Sandler. The name is taken from a combination of two Sandler films, the aforementioned Happy Gilmore and the quite awful Billy Madison. The company name seems to represent where Sandler has come from and how happy he is to carry his work with him wherever he goes. The companies output seems to show how much Sandler wants to keep himself and his friends Rob Schneider and Kevin James in work whilst they live off money earned from obscene amounts of product placement. Their first film was Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.
I mentioned in my review of the excellent, nay… exemplary, Punch-drunk Love that Sandler is an incredibly capable actor. I’d honestly say that if he can put out a performance on the level he does in that film on a regular basis he’d probably be in line for some major awards. But I don’t think that will ever happen because, based on his most recent string of films, Sandler has fully given all the shits and now has a grand total of 0 to give. Films like Grown Ups, That’s My Boy and Jack & Jill just show a continual lack of care for film. They show that he thinks his fans are stupid/loyal enough that he doesn’t have to worry about anything resembling quality. He doesn’t even need to star in his films as releases such as Zookeeper (which wasn’t based on the great DS game) and Paul Blart: Mall Cop have proven. He can take the exact mould he makes any of his terrible comedies from and just chuck one of his friends and about 55 products to place in front of the camera, pay someone to shout action, and call it a day. Well, after he’s been to the bank to check how much money he has siphoned from the pockets of anyone willing to pay for this nonsense.
That’s not to say everything Happy Madison productions has put out has been entirely awful. They also produced Reign Over me and Funny People. The two other films where Sandler does acting. Also, I’ve been told his remake of The Longest Yard is actually quite good. I’ve never seen it though. Also, people tell me that they think Deuce Bigalow is good, so fuck people and their opinions. Even mine. It seems there is a rule that for every actual attempt at film making at this production company at least 3 films of the quality of The Master of Disguise or Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star must be made. With lots of adverts shoehorned in. The level of plain not trying is incredible and it seems to represent everything of the character of Sandler himself. He doesn’t try, his production company doesn’t try and his audience don’t ask for anything more… so why should he try?
The difference for me with Sandler when compared to LaBeouf, who equally seem to have no interest in being good at what they do, is that Sandler could do better. Very clearly he could do better. Also, Sandler seems to stay out of trouble and avoids coming across as a full blown…. hmm, douche?… Chode?… I’m gonna go with irritating little chungus. On the flip-side I can tell that when LaBeouf is in a dramatic role he is at least trying, he’s just not that great. The commonality is that neither actor/producer/director, and whatever pretentious way you care to write the word “artist”, they both display signs of not caring about how they’re represented, about the example they set to fans who may wish to follow in their footsteps and about producing work that they can be proud of and other, such as fictional film critic Justin M. Damiano can be proud of them for creating.
At the end of the day the job of an actor is to entertain, to show us emotions we recognise from experience. To convey characters and situations we’d like to know or, maybe not want to ever be involved in. They have young fans and so should consider how they represent themselves as they will hold influence over the development of those fan’s minds, as would society as a whole. Let’s face it, people in general just don’t care as much any more about integrity or quality. Films, music and entertainment are seen as disposable and as things that shouldn’t tax our minds, which is extremely dangerous to the development of art.
I’ve picked Sandler and LaBeouf out as prime examples of this modern decline in care but they are not alone. Look at the films of Paul WS Anderson and Brett Ratner and you’ll see largely lazily made film with little care for story, character or even whispering the idea of a thematic premise. Look at actors such as Milla Jovovich who seems to have just reclined into the role of being that woman from the terrible Resident Evil films now. She’s capable of being quite decent too, but clearly wants to go for repeating the same role over and over because she knows she’ll maintain a level of fame and earn a level of money she’s comfortable with.
There’s many actors and directors that clearly do give all the shits they have into every film they make or star in. Some are rewarded well for their efforts. Some are crushed under the weight of the latest Happy Madison style comedy or big budget mindless action flick and are pushed further to the fringes. The trouble is that true quality seems to be a risk now and so the easy and fully market researched route is the norm. It’s too early to say if some of this generations great films and performances will have the legs that David Lean and Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia has. I have to wonder if the seeming lack of demand on the general public’s part for higher expectations will lead us to just not care about great works enough to carry them with us through life. Ask yourself what films you’ll take with you through life, I’d imagine you’d pick some great works, some films that you tie to a memory and maybe something you just enjoy. I’d also guess that a lot of those films will at least appear to involve artists trying their best and giving a shit. If you have any Happy Madison films in that list then please stop watching films. You’re making things worse.